Wonderland Wives Review: Theatre Downtown

Let’s face it, to a certain degree, we’ve all been raised on Fairy Tales.

To take it a step further, we’ve all been raised on Fairy Tales made popular by Disney.  Despite being centuries old, the whimsical tales of curse-breaking kisses, glass slippers and magic beans are often shadowed by Walt and his mouse sidekick.

The animated retellings exemplify that all conflicts can be cured with a kiss, castle and a knight in shining armor. But, what if happily ever wasn’t so peachy keen? Like most superhero films, what if there was an end credit scene that gives a small glimpse of life after the fairy tale? If Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” surmised that happy endings aren’t so picture perfect in Act 2, Buddy Thomas’ “Wonderland Wives” is the proverbial Act 3.

Despite its ensemble of recognizable heroines, this isn’t your kid’s Disney. It’s more Disney after dark. An uncensored reel laced with sex jokes, profanity and double entendres, “Wonderland Wives” takes the lovable characters that you grew up with and gives them a “Real Housewives of New Jersey” revamp. These ladies might sing a catchy tune, but don’t think they won’t flip a table.

The play kicks off with the Fairy Godmother conversing on the phone with an unseen Cinderella. She’s enjoying her vacation in Hawaii and doesn’t want to be bothered with the princess’ woes, which includes her husband’s infidelity with a mermaid and countless bouts with the law. The infamous wish-granter isn’t seen again, but her crude humor and sailor’s tongue sets the standard for the remainder of the production.

Things aren’t so good in the magical kingdom. Snow White( Sarah James) is broke and in denial that her prince has abandoned her; Belle( Catherine Champion), a wise-cracking alcoholic, is fed up with her marriage to the Beast ( Jared Funderburg) ; Briar Rose( Karen Black), the infamous Sleeping Beauty, is fresh out of rehab and looking for a place to stay; and Cinderella( Daniel Martin) has found solace in her fridge, resulting in massive weight gain.

The story unfolds as Prince Charming (also Funderburg) is released from prison. From there on, things take a comedic turn for the worst. Cinderella’s beau wants nothing to with his bride, shifting his attention to a recently separated Belle and a rehabilitated Briar Rose.

Drawing references from their respective films, “Wonderland Wives” succeeds without taking itself seriously. The jokes, lewd and profound, did call for minimum background knowledge, but was overall enjoyable. However, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to comprehend the barrage of jabs directed at the animation giant.

Directed by Kelsey Crawford, the production masterfully delivers farce with over-the-top performances. James’ Snow drew inspiration from her animated counterpart, while adding adult flair. Champion didn’t miss a beat with her break-neck line delivery, transforming the once timid bibliophile to a master shade thrower. Channeling the late Divine and Mob Wife Big Ang, Martin demanded laughs with his drag caricature of the servant-turned-princess. However, no one should get more recognition than Nick Crawford, who tackled multiple minor roles, including the satirical Magic Mirror, cockney-accented Alice of Wonderland and the crude-mouthed Fairy Godmother.

What sells “Wonderland Wives” is its mixture of nostalgia and adult-branded humor. The two-act production isn’t apologetic with its content, often utilizing crude jokes for shock value. Who would’ve thought the lives of miserable princesses could be so amusing and fun to watch?

Location: Downtown Theatre

Director Kelsey Crawford

Cast: Sara James, Catherine Champion, Daniel Martin, Karen Black, Jared Funderburg and Nick Crawford.

“Wonderland Wives” played at the Downtown Theatre in Birmingham, July 26-August 11th. For more information on Downtown Theatre’s future productions, please visit Theatredowntown.org or call 205 565-8TDT


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